Differences in attentional control and white matter microstructure in adolescents with attentional, affective, and behavioral disorders

Andrea T. Shafer, James R. Benoit, Matthew R.G. Brown, Andy J. Greenshaw, K. Jessica Van Vliet, Sunita Vohra, Florin Dolcos, Anthony Singhal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Adolescence is a critical time of physiological, cognitive, and social development. It is also a time of increased risk-taking and vulnerability for psychopathology. White matter (WM) changes during adolescence have been better elucidated in the last decade, but how WM is impacted by psychopathology during this time remains unclear. Here, we examined the link between WM microstructure and psychopathology during adolescence. Twenty youth diagnosed with affective, attentional, and behavioral disorders (clinical sample), and 20 age-matched controls were recruited to examine group differences in WM microstructure, attentional control, and the link between them. The main results showed that clinical sample had relatively lower attentional control and fractional anisotropy (FA) in WM throughout the brain: two association tracts were identified, and many differences were found in areas rich in callosal and projection fibers. Moreover, increased FA was positively associated with attention performance in the clinical sample in structures supporting ventral WM pathways, whereas a similar link was identified in controls in dorsal WM association fibers. Overall, these results support a model of general impairment in WM microstructure combined with reliance on altered, perhaps less efficient, pathways for attentional control in youth with affective, attentional, and behavioral disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)599-614
Number of pages16
JournalBrain Imaging and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • ADHD
  • Adolescent
  • Cognition
  • DTI
  • Emotion
  • Imaging
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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